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Round-up: Top Press Commentary

The Atlantic Community think tank recommends a daily selection of five commentaries from leading international newspapers, which are written by decision-makers, academic experts, and journalists.

Here are the best from last week:

Shashi Tharoor, former UN under-secretary general, is concerned about the growing popularity of John McCain's League of Democracies among US voters of both parties. Such a league would suffer from the same inaction problems as the UN. Besides,  Chinese and Russian cooperation is needed in our "post-American world."

Joschka Fischer, Germany's former foreign minister, believes that a military confrontation with Iran looms in the Middle East: "We must assume he [President Bush] and Israel plan to solve one problem before the end of his term in a completely different manner: Iran's nuclear program will be handled militarily, not diplomatically."

Zbigniew Brzezinski and William Odom, US security and intelligence veterans, argue that Iran cannot be prevented from acquiring nuclear power capabilities and describe how the US government could make the best out of this fact.

Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank, presents a 10-point plan for tackling the food crisis.

Leslie Hook of the The Wall Street Journal Asia describes the rise of Chinese civil society in the aftermath of the earthquake and asks can charity change China?

The Times is concerned that a new Cold War could heat up the North Pole.

Last but not least, The Independent describes the Eurovision Song Contest as the "Epitome of Soft Power."

The daily Top Press Commentary Section is featured in the top left corner of atlantic-community.org

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David on :

Just a note on the WaPo piece by Zbigniew Brzezinski and William Odom. General Odom died on Friday at the age of 75. We will miss the contributions by this patriot and voice of reason.

Joe Noory on :

"Patriot"? [i][url=http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/09/AR2007020901917_pf.html]Victory Is Not an Option[/url] [b]The Mission Can't Be Accomplished[/b] -- It's Time for a New Strategy By William E. Odom Sunday, February 11, 2007; B01[/i] He sounded there like a man fishing for a job and a constituency. [url=http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/29/AR2008052904116.html?nav=rss_world]Elsewhere[/url]: [i]While cautioning that al-Qaeda remains a serious threat, Hayden said Osama bin Laden is [b]losing the battle for hearts and minds[/b] in the Islamic world[/i] As far as knowing a great deal about him, he retured in 1988 as director of the NSA which the same people apt to find him courageous now would have accued them of peeking in their sock drawers in Kalamazoo and assumed that the mainstray of their business was 'the great UFO coverup' or thie like. It's fairly straightforward: we don't have any interest in quadrupling the size of the intelligence community, but we have an effective conventional military. Therefore, you attract the enemy into one or more place and kill them with conventional forces in a straightforward manner. Better still, you keep as nmany of the states as possible who constructed and support the terrorist as busy as possible by bificating them. Thridly, you create the opportunity for a concept of a civil society to thrive: if they take it up, it would be duplicated. If it's destroyed, it shows the neighboring socially and politicall oppressive states around it an object lesson to learn from. You'll note how this really is rather different than the "irrational empirium" narrative, the "stupidity" narrative, or even the "Bush caused 9-11" narrative that our effete, sophisticated friends emote reservedly for the US or Israel, but never a European, the Burmese, the Janjaweed, or Mugabe.

Pat Patterson on :

I always thought that Gen. Odom's argument would have sounded something like being in favor of withdrawing from Normandy because the Allies were drawing too many Germans to the area and as a result the casualty rate had skyrocketed after D-Day.

Pamela on :

Well, Joe and Pat are dancing on Odom's grave while he roasts in hell, so I don't need to jump in there. But I will talk about the 'food crisis'. There shouldn't be one. Zoelleck is correct - this is entirely man-made. It is true that production has fallen, but not to the extent that people should be going hungry. It is true that stores are the lowest they've been in decades and no one is quite sure how that's happened. The problem is not in the amount of food available - the problem is the price. Price is raw data, and in a rational market should carry very little noise. But I've been watching the commodities markets very closely since mid-January and I hear way too much noise. Speculation? Certainly. Lots. Subsidies? Oh, don't get me started. When the Common Ag Policy is over 40% of the EU budget, the markets are definitely distorted. Feed-stock-based biofuels and energy costs? Certainly a factor but not to the extent that would explain the price rise. Resources? Oh dear. Water is becoming a big one. I've spent the last month learning how to read hydrology maps (I'm not very good at it either, at least not yet.) There's talk about changing the 'flood' model of irrigation to the 'drip' model but that requires significant investment in infrastructure and won't work with crops like rice. This is a perfect storm. What to do? Lose the subsidies. Politically not doable but that's the fastest, most 'rational market' approach available. And why are dairy farmers in Germany dumping their milk? I haven't figured that out yet.

Pat Patterson on :

That's a little harsh as I simply thought the General Odom was wrong on his assesment and was ultimately proven so.

Zyme on :

The farmers want to achieve bigger prices when they sell milk products to the trading companies. So they go on "strike" by wasting their products instead of selling them. This way the supplies of the milk industry and the trading companies dry up quickly and receive more and more pressure for re-negotiation. The farmers argue the price paid for milk is too low for them to survive, but it might also be the case that a lot of them simply survived until today since the subsidies were high enough. So once these are cut, a number of the farmers will have to look for a new job anyway.

franchie on :

yeah, they ought to, cause if there isn't a marcket for their products, then move on to another occupation now, the actual subventions killed the traditional agriculture, pushed old farmers to sell out their soils, or to hang themselves, while the biologic farming was still rewarding in health and prices, banks and industrial aliments furnishers pressured them ! if these earth persons could have stayed on their land yards, then they wouldn't be counted as unemployed, they loved their job, at any cost of their time Monsanto ruined the whole earth with their fertilizers and seeds, ; none of the actal agricultors can keep a part of their crop to re-plant, old fruits trees and vegetable that resisted to vermine and viruses are lost forever Monsanto lobbied in Washington, Brussels... policy instances the technocrats there were the collaborators of a big foolying enterprise what a wonderful world

Pamela on :

Re: the food issue - I can't find it online but there's a letter to the editor in today's WSJ from a Ford B. West who is president of The Fertilizer Institute. He makes some good points and tells something I didn't know. I'll just quote at length. ----------------------- The rational explanation for the price the world's farmers are apying for fertilizers is the tremendous global fertilizer demand push caused by increasing food demand. Fertilizers are currently responsible for between 40% and 60% of the world's food supply, and U.S. farmers are competing for fertilizers with farmers from around the world. The US imports 90% of its potash and 55% of its nitrogen fertilizer. Since just 2001, world demand for fertilizers has grown by 14%, which is equivalent to the toal size of the US fertilizer market. The already tight supply situation was recently further squeezed when China, the world's largest exporter of nitrogen and phospate, implemented export tariffs ranging form 100% to 135% in a successful effort to keep its fertilizer at home and out of the world's market place -------------------- Unfortunately, the letter doesn't say WHEN China imposed those tariffs, so I can't tell when it started to impact the markets.

Don S on :

"Joschka Fischer, Germany's former foreign minister, believes that a military confrontation with Iran looms in the Middle East: " Expert prognosticators have successfully predicted 20 of the last 0 wars between the US and Iran. Latin American experts similarly have successfully predicted 8 of the past 0 US invasions of Venezuala, and 6 of the past 0 US-backed coups against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. These things could happen of course, but I think the 'experts' only discredit themselves by such predictions. The current German foreign minister may have better & more current information than Herr Fischer does, you think? But of course he isn't saying. One thing I will say is that the US is FAR more likely to go to war with Iran than with Venezuela, because the probability of the latter is derisory small. The probablity of war with Iran is a 'who knows?'. Could be 50%, could be 1/10th of 1%. Nobody but Bush really knows what kind of thing would cause him to make that decision, and even Bush doesn't know what the Iranian government will do. Could be they will provoke a war, although one hopes both sides will be smarter than that....

quo vadis on :

Itís difficult to take seriously anyone who produces an analysis of Iraqís future that fails to take into consideration the changes that have taken place over the previous year. The Bush administrationís Iraq policy failed due to their stubborn unwillingness to consider any evidence which didnít support their favored narrative. Perhaps itís unrealistic to expect that European policymakers will prove more competent than George Bush.

quo vadis on :

Posted to the wrong topic

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